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“The Study of Mahayana Buddhism: Doctrinal and Psychological”

“The Study of Mahayana Buddhism: Doctrinal and Psychological”

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Published by: janellee73 on Feb 02, 2011
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“The Study of Mahayana Buddhism: Doctrinal andPsychological”Religious Studies 162AProfessor Ninian smartJanelle HarrisonDue: Dec. 1, 1998
In the Indian tradition if Philosophy and religion there has developed many differentforms of doctrines; both orthodox and unorthod
Out of these two branches of Hinduculture come of the most influential religious teachers have arose. One such teacher isGautama (The Buddha) and from his teachings there developed in the Buddhist traditionthree great Buddhist vehicles: Theravada (Way of The Elders). Sarvastivada (All ThingsAre Real), a middle phase: Madhgamika (Middle Way) and, Vijnanavada (ConsciousnessOnly). For this paper, the focus will be on the Madhyamikas school which, is also knownas Mahayana.The Mahayana school of thought within the Buddhist tradition espoused manydoctrines of belief; some of which brought new insight into Buddhist teachings. This newinsight was formulated by the schools founder Sakyamuni. By elaborating on doctrinal beliefs such as The Bodhisattva (enlightrnmen being), The three-nature theory(trisvabhava), The six perfection’s, and The ten Bodhisattva levels, along with thedoctrine of emptiness (aunyata) I hope to illustrate the various aspects of maya (illusion)as a concept can be an eternal aspect to what has been thought for centuries as sunyata.These two concepts are paradoxical, but further analysis will have to support this theoryto its full capacity.To contrast Buddhist teachings which are unorthodox to another school of thoughtI will briefly expose a number of doctrinal beliefs from the Vedanta branch of Hinduorthodox philosophy. I will focus on Sankara’s famous metaphysical system for the most part, and show the parallels of the belief in Maya between his teachings and, TheBuddha’s (well, in Mahayana they are the teachings of Sakyamuni) can compare twotraditions in the Hindu culture which are viewed as distinctly separate. All of this of 
source will have to be viewed in light of the theories of causation and then, perhaps insome reflexivity show the implications of these doctrines and theories in light of moderncognitive science: Psychology.The teachings of Gautama (The Buddha) espoused a theory of no-self (anatman)and sunyata (Eliade 2: 335). The no-self doctrine is a denial of a permanent self existingin a world of emptiness (Smart 31). He taught that life is permeated with suffering(dukkha) and this suffering is what causes craving. If one can bring about cessation of craving through the Noble Eightfold Path then suffering will end (Smart 18). In theempirical world, Nirvana is a release realized by the cessation of craving. This release isfrom the round of rebirth and leads to the attainment of peace (santi) and insight (panna)(19). Once the macro-individual ceases to live in the empirical world, a transcendent Nirvana is finally realized and release from a world made-up of impermanent states(dhamma) which are governed by causal laws can be achieved (22).These teachings tie in well for ore discussion of Mahayana Buddhism. They showhow the various schools of thought developed contrasting ideas about the path one shouldtake. Once we begin to examine Hinayana (The “lesser” Vehicle) compared to Mahayana(The “greater” Vehicle) the doctrine of the Bodhisattva comes into play. It was theHinayanist who espoused a theory of individual liberation (release); thus they werereferred to in a pejorative manner as the “lesser Vehicle” by adherents of Mahayana(Power 94). While the Mahayanist taught the doctrine of the Bodhisattva, who are beingsmotivated by “great compassion” for all sentient beings; thus they were referred to as the“greater Vehicle” (93,94). It is the former school that adheres more closely to theBuddha’s original teachings of release or Nirvana.

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